What You Should Know When It’s Suggested You Apply for Another Job at a Company You Applied To

You've thoroughly prepared for the interview, down to rehearsing with a friend. You have a list of informed questions you’re ready to ask.

But then comes the plot twist: Maybe you should apply for another job at the company, the interviewer suggests.

apply for different job

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Often, it means someone has recognized your potential and is eager to find a place for you in the organization. It could mean the interviewer thinks you’re under- or over-qualified for the position you’ve applied for. It also could mean an internal candidate has a lock on the job and interviewing you was the company’s way of meeting a numbers requirement.

The thing is, you don’t know why. Your first step is to find out. Hint: Don’t blurt out, “Why are you suggesting that?”

Ask the interviewer tactfully

“That’s an interesting idea,” is a great crutch when you’re at a loss. Follow up with, “Do you have anything in mind?”

If the interviewer doesn’t answer the obvious questions, make sure you ask. Is there a position open now that you should consider or should you keep an eye out for something soon? Should you look at another department? Do you need additional training or skills?

Be prepared to seize the opportunity

If the interviewer offers concrete suggestions—there’s an opening in marketing you’re better suited for—get ready to politely pounce. Could you meet the marketing director now or, at the least, take a tour of the department? If neither is possible, ask the interviewer to broker an email introduction. At the very least, collect contact information and follow through.

Those steps also are effective if the suggestion is more on the vague side—there’s nothing open in product development now, but that’s where the company thinks your future is.

Edit your job search

It might seem strange to put a priority on an updated resume when you’re applying at a place that already has a copy, but it’s exactly what you should do to stay competitive. You’ll likely need to tailor it for the new, specific position, highlighting skills, training, and experiences that were less relevant before and downplaying other points.

A resume update early on will also help you identify any weaknesses you need to shore up. Light on leadership? Volunteer to spearhead a few projects. Need to bolster your technical skills? Find a relevant class.

If a move to another department or another management level is suggested, find people to shadow. Don’t rule out looking for shadows at your current company. An internal move could be just the thing to revive flagging enthusiasm, allowing you to find more rewarding work while keeping your seniority and benefits.

Make sure you follow up

Even when you’re in a gray area between hired and not exactly rejected, it’s still important to remember your business etiquette. As soon as you get back from the interview, draft an upbeat thank-you note to everyone with whom you spoke. These days, an email is fine, but don’t delay. Make sure you send it within 24 hours.

Expressing appreciation for the time the company invested in you is a given but, beyond that, use the note as an opportunity to refine your pitch and aim it toward the position you’re now looking at. Summarize the interview to show you were alert and engaged. Ask any follow-up questions you might have overlooked. If the interviewer offered to keep in touch, close by saying you will—and then make sure you do.

Though a suggestion that you apply for another job at the company could be an ominous sign, in general it’s not. If the company didn’t see potential, no one would have bothered to bring it up.

Take the suggestion to heart, find out what you need to know, and formulate a plan for landing a new opportunity.

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